Where are we now? and What is the future for 'disability hate crime'?

Love To Hate

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Throughout the UK; Derbyshire, Leicestershire, London, South Wales and Cheshire are the areas where there has been the highest number of prosecutions under Section 146 of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act in the past year.

The most frequent form of crime where this provision has been used is alongside an ‘offence against the person’. This is a crime which is committed by direct physical harm or force being applied to another person; things like assault, battery, wounding, poisoning, actual or grievous bodily harm. These are some of the most personal forms of attack that someone can suffer.

However in 2006 the Home Office Online Report stated that police only identify half of all vulnerable and intimidated witnesses.

In this report, the Home Office stated: The public is largely ignorant about the existence of disability hate crime and little attempt is made to confront the public prejudice which feeds these crimes.

The police have now launched a national campaign called True Vision which will encourage people who have experienced hate crime to report it…. however…the True Vision website, which allows this reporting access, only offers the options of ‘gender and sexuality’ or ‘race and religion’ hate crime reporting.

Schemes relating to disability hate crime reporting are still regional…

London, the area with 18 out of 184 convictions from April 2007 to May 2008 does allow for a disability hate crimes to be reported by a third party or online.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Welton, from the MET Police said:

We are proactive around how we react to it but not on how we manage to encourage people to come forward. However on hate crimes, domestic violence, homophobia, sex attacks we are trying to move a great deal, in that respect. The domestic violence murder rate has been slashed due to positive intervention….now the time has come around that we are moving onto the next community of people: people with learning difficulties.

I then asked DCI Welton about the court process, he said:

We can only do so much to bring them in front of a court but with the inclusion of the CPS in that charging decision now, they must feel confident that there is a chance of a successful prosecution. So that is all positive.

The Crime Prosecution Service (CPS) brought in an ‘intermediaries’ service in February 2007. In their guidance booklets they draw attention to the ‘serious nature of these crimes’ to stop people feeling ‘unsafe or unwelcome’.

In their guidance they state:

Safety and security, and the right to live free from fear and harassment, are fundamental human rights and the CPS recognises the wider community impact of disability hate crime where it strikes at all disabled people by undermining their sense of safety and security in the community.

The CPS explicitly state the difference between a disability hate crime and a crime committed against a disabled person because of their vulnerability as:

A disability hate crime is any crime committed in any of the circumstances explained in section 146 CJA. Where there is evidence available to prove that an offence is aggravated by hostility based on the victim’s disability we will do our utmost to ensure that that evidence is put before the court for sentencing purposes.

Victoria Lambert, Bournemouth Crime Prosecution Service, said (as of July 8th 2008 ): “The Crime Prosecution Service had 156 registered intermediaries across the UK and since the introduction of the scheme in 2007 there have been 1300 referrals to this service.” This service includes providing intermediaries for all vulnerable witnesses and defendants; these included both disabled people and children.

Whilst considering how disability hate crime features in the eyes of the police and the courts; it is also important to take a look at how these crimes are seen and dealt with through a lawyers eyes.

I spoke to David Edwards, a lawyer from Dorset, who has worked on disability discrimination cases. Listen to this interview by pressing play on the bar below:

 

 

 

With schemes of reporting opening up and the number of these cases increasing it appears there is either a growth in the number of these cases or a growth in the number of these cases being reported. I asked DCI Welton if he believes this growth will continue, he said:

At the moment it is the Police Community Support Officer’s who are used to specifically identify issues that may cause members of the public difficulties. It is for them to report it to the police offers and say that there are vulnerable adults there to work with our partners to make sure they get appropriate support. This is so we are aware of our potential flashpoints.

 

Training To Target

'One-to-One' is an organisation which is working to alert the police and local councils to, what they feel, can be an intimidating process of reporting a hate crime. They provide training sessions to make clear the perspective of the people affected. Watch one of these sessions and hear interviews with the VIP (Valuing and Including People) team below.

One to one presentation from Melanie Edgar on Vimeo

Listen to this article by pressing play on the bar below:

 

 

 

Summary of cases using section 146 of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act from April 2007- May 2008. Statistics according to Freedom of Information request; obtained 16/06/08:

 

  • Offences against the person : 127 prosecutions. 98 convictions and 29 unsuccessful.
  • Sexual Offences : 5 prosecutions. 3 convictions and 2 unsuccessful.
  • Burglary : 18 prosecutions. 15 convictions and 3 unsuccessful.
  • Robbery: 8 prosecutions – all convictions.
  • Theft and Handling: 20 prosecutions. 17 convictions and 3 unsuccessful.
  • Fraud and Forgery: 3 prosecutions – all convictions.
  • Criminal Damage : 11 prosecutions. 10 convictions, 1 unsuccessful.
  • Drugs Offences : 2 prosecutions – both convictions.
  • Public Order Offences : 29 prosecutions. 21 convictions, 8 unsuccessful.
  • Motoring Offences : 2 prosecutions - both convictions.
  • All other offences (excluding motoring): 9 prosecutions. 5 convictions and 4 unsuccessful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read what a lawyer said about disability hate crime here:

 

 

 

Read what is discussed in this video by clicking on the icon below: